Design Your Own English Class!

We know it sometimes sucks to sit through English class, even for people like you who LOVE to read and write. Which is why English professor Antero Garcia wants your advice about what to teach in his Fall 2012 Adolescent Literature course at Colorado State. Pretty cool, right? If you want to give Professor Garcia a few hints, click over to the forums here.

21 thoughts on “Design Your Own English Class!

  1. Hi! I am a freshman in Honors English and an aid in English 1 and just some tips of advice are:
    1. Don’t be afraid to make jokes, not all of them will be funny is a given but you can make fun of people in a playful mannor. If you do make jokes with people, don’t exclude anyone, just to make sure it doesn’t get personal.
    2. Take lessons slow. Learn about one part of speech everyday so we can retain the information more and quiz every 4 or 5
    3. Tennagers and young adults can smell fear so it’s important to be confident starting on the very first day. Practice makes perfect.
    4. For papers or essays, don’t make them about the Russian Revolutio or Animal Farm or somthing you will be reading in class. One may be fine but you have to let the kids show their creativity. Maybe they would write an essay not on their opinions of animal farm, but on the changes they would make, or even putting themselves in the book as a character and altering the situations.
    That is the best advice that I can give. Best of luck,
    Suzanne Smith

  2. Hi! I’m a high school senior taking AP English Literature with the best teacher in the school, and loving every minute of it. Here’s what I’ve picked up about teaching from taking the course:

    – Make sure the students know how to vary sentences, break up sentences with commas and semicolons, and to never use first person in an essay or term paper. Basic grammar is good. But we’ll never need to know how to graph a sentence or the twelve categories of nouns. (Our seventh grade English teacher drilled these and more into our heads, and we haven’t used them since.)

    – Vary the books you cover according to your audience. In a class of all girls and one boy, Jane Eyre was an exciting read for all but one. Next we’re reading The Catcher in the Rye, and I suspect the feelings will soon be reversed.

    – Gentle firmness is a good thing. Pettiness for the sake of asserting power is unwise. My AP Lit teacher exhibits the former; my AP European History teacher, the latter. Both teachers’ students consistently recieve good marks on the AP Exams. Yet, there is a reason that the students who take both courses like the AP Lit teacher better.

    – Hear your students out. Listen to their questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions. Taking action is then up to you, but this will instill confidence in your students and encourage them to trust you.

    – Vary the source material. Have a good mix of classic novels, modern fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism, and poetry.

    – I don’t know what grade level you’ll be teaching, but as for level of difficulty, know your audience. Jane Eyre was easy to understand, yet informative, and so was The Great Gatsby (an all-around class favorite). Yet our teacher is walking us through The Sound and the Fury (we are reading half of the novel – the harder of the four sections – in class, and she has supplied us with several study guides). As for Shakespeare, I encourage some in-class reading and books with a side-by-side modern English translation.

    I wish you the best of luck!

  3. Okay. Im a Freshman taking English 1 and here is what I would like to see in my English Class.
    = Okay, so In my english class, instead of the teacher choosing a report, let the students pick the topics!

    Thats all I have. Hope it helps!

  4. Hello, I’m a Junior taking an IB English course. In other words it’s like an AP class, with the same amount of homework but an increased amount of essays, seminars, and reading. My class has recently gotten a fresh-out-of-university assistant teacher. The difference between my English teacher (who’s been teaching for roughly ten years) and her is remarkable. A few tips for your students would be:

    1) Make decisions, and fast. We teenagers will pounce at the drop of a hat. If there is even the slightest moment of dead air the class will erupt into a never ending stream of talking. Once you lose control of the class it will be incredibly difficult to regain control.

    2) Variation is key. Don’t focus on a single type of literature. Translated lit., poetry, plays, mystery novels, romance novels. If we’re forced to read about “steaming guts” pouring out of someone’s stomachs for an entire year we’ll commit seppuku ourselves.

    3) Be confident. If you’re gonna make an opinion or tell us to do something, make sure you stick with it. Don’t say “Take out your notebooks – No, a piece of paper – I mean your notebooks.” Everyone will just get confused and begin to tune out.

    4) Don’t be a stick in the mud. Sure, school guidelines may say “no swearing allowed” but if a piece of literature we’re reading says “shit”, don’t refer to it as the “s-word”. If a group of kids have bonded together in their general area, don’t split them up unless it’s distracting to you or the rest of the class. If a kid has had a perfect record of turning in an assignment on time, cut them some slack if their printer dies and they’re unable to print out the assignment.

    5) Be open to playful banter. Just because your standing at the front of the class doesn’t mean that you have to have perfect posture and perfect manners. Being able to joke around with my English teacher is something that I love. For example, I wore a tutu to school one day (it was theme week), my teacher teased me about it, and now it’s become an inside joke.

    6) Allow the students different forms of expression. Not every kid wants to do a PowerPoint presentation. Some want to rap, or make posters, or dance.

  5. Hey! I’m a sophmore and I love my English teacher. He’s funny and real and always seems to know what’s going on in his kids’ heads. If you’d like, here are some tips to help you out!

    1. Don’t be a stickler, especially about respect. In high school, you earn it– teachers and students alike. Let them know when they have yours, and don’t rush it– they’ll like you. Eventually.

    2. Be patient. We talk. A LOT. A trick my teacher uses is a chick that chirps really quietly. You have to strain to hear it. Oddly enough it does catch our attention, even when he doesn’t show us that he’s using it. Also, things like staying quiet and letting them talk works, too, but don’t wait too long– especially after they noticed you’re not talking and get bored (that’ll just cause them to talk again).

    3. Humor is essential. Sarcasm’s good, and if you notice a theme echoing through the classroom, don’t be afraid to go along with it. At the same time, let them know you’re serious about some things. Tell them what you’re serious about, so they know their boundaries. When they forget, remind them gently and don’t hold it against them. Also, incoperating your personal life is a good way to help them get accustomed to you. But not too much! I had a teacher who basically laid out his life story at us. We got bored pretty quickly.

    4. Don’t pay attention to just a handful of students. Make sure they all get equal amounts of attention. Focus on their strong points while making sure they know what they need to work on. At the same time, don’t force them to do things they don’t want to do, like sharing work or teaming people up who can’t stand each other. For that last bit, my science teacher told us to write on notecards who we’d like to work with and who we would violently avoid, and that helped us do our project a lot easier.

    This list is getting long, and I’ve pretty much only given you tips on how to deal with teens. Sorry if it’s redundant! I wish you luck!

    PS. Above all, have fun! If you’re having fun, they’ll have fun!

  6. 1) I think you should ask the kids what inspires them to write, and have them write about it, it will make them excited to write it and it will show you topics you could make revrenses to.
    2) Have them write about something fun, like music don’t have them write about mozart or anything, just music that they like and is appropriate.
    3) During lessons (Grammar lessons) you should have the activities be something more exciting.

    Hope this helps!

  7. well, the biggest dilemma for me in english class is that the teacher always picks the books we read, and they usually end up being something that barely anyone in the class really wants to read. why not have kids pick their own books for a change, and have them bring it up to you to have it approved?

  8. Don’t be rude and listen to your students.If you see some kids getting picked on and you can see on their faces that they hate it try to stop it or distract the abuser’s attention.I know you’ll do great

  9. When teaching ask your students what they feel about what you are learning about. If they don’t like it figure out a way to make it more fun for them without that your students will feel as if they are just there because they have to be.

  10. Try to work in a unit/series of lessons that has to do with the students’ creativity. My only real frustration with my AP English class, and the Pre-AP ones I took previously, is that there is so little opportunity to be creative. I loved it in Pre-AP English II when we had to write a short story–no limitations on what we had to convey or describe, just a word limit and a few suggestions to help us avoid cliche and boring our readers. I know there’s not really much room in most teachers’ schedules to do things like that, but if you can fit just a little creative writing in…

  11. Hi, Im an 8th grade student. My English teacher recently started a daily scedual of what we need to do every day. The sceduel helped me along with much of the class with organizing ourselves. We now know what work needs to be done at what time, so their are far less unprepared students. Their is some down time during the class, so no one feels overwelmed by too much English work at once. Depending on how much time you have, you can even spend the last cople minutes of class by having them read their own book silently. This gives everyone in my class little bit of time off for literature. Good luck!

  12. Hi! I’m a middle school student. I have two good ideas for your English class.

    – Kids like it when you’re funny! Make jokes and learn to laugh at yourself.
    – If and when you give your kids notes, let them copy them down and THEN explain it. It’s hard to listen to someone and write down stuff at the same time.

    Good luck!

  13. My name is Jacie and I am a Junior taking Honors British Literature, i switched from a regular english class to a honors class second semester when i was a sophomore. Anyways,
    1. Do not be afraid to make jokes
    2. Call on students who are less likely to answer
    3. Movie Friday! watch clips of the topics on friday to help prepare for a fun weekend without hw
    4. make it fun, do not assign unnecessary hw because students won’t do it

  14. I’m a twelfth grader in AP literature and composition, and I love my English class most of the time — we have a really great teacher who knows how to relate to us and make each lesson interesting. However, sometimes he gives us a paper to write without explaining it very much, and all of us are just confused and have no idea what we’re doing. So, my main thing for teachers is that teachers should give us very clear instructions, maybe even with examples of past assignments that met the teacher’s expectations.

  15. For someone who teaches Adolescent Literature to college freshmen this is incredibly insightful. I agree on varying kinds of books — also look at adolescent literature from different perspectives. The world is very different to someone who is a native American Indian (Sherman Alexie) than to an overweight, abused girl from Harlem (Sapphire) than to a gay teenager in suburbia (Alison Bechdel -Fun Home). I also may humbly add — consider — LIE — my debut novel published last fall from St. Martin’s Press. Inspired by true events, LIE is the story of the aftermath of hate crime against Hispanics by white teens. Told in ten distinct first person voices, it’s a very different kind, thought-provoking and conversation-provoking read. You can find out more at my website. Truly, the author of LIE.

  16. What I’ve noticed in my classes is that teachers like to pick favorites. Try not to do that, it makes all the other kids feel left out. And make the class fun, makes some games like around the world and whoever makes it farthest get like three dollars or some candy or something. No matter how old they are, it’s still fun to do.
    For required reading, I think the teacher should pick Just ONE and the students get to pick the rest as long as they meet requirements.
    You have to make class interesting or the information will go in one ear and out the next. And also, we like to hear stories, so if you can tell some of your life that fits that lessons, it makes it a lot better.

  17. The best thing about my English teacher is that what she talks about MATTERS. She ties everything in with real life and she knows what you’re going through and she genuinely wants to help you grow in your writing. That is one of the best things a teacher can do for a student: care.

  18. Spend the first class period brainstorming the required reading list — a book a week. You get one choice, the kids choose the rest. Spend the course learning what questions to ask, how to approach a text, what constitutes value. You will learn as much as the kids and the course will shape itself.

  19. Lots of constructive criticism….but don’t write our essays for us. And, please, assign reading outside of class so we can spend time IN CLASS doing things that are PRODUCTIVE. Also, it helps catch people’s attention if they can relate to the stories that they read. AND REMEMBER: although grammar is a way of achieving beauty, it is not THE WAY. So cut us some slack if we write stylistically. And no homework just to keep us busy. MEANINGFUL homework.

  20. I think that you should do fun projects that can take a literary piece and relate it to the present. I, also, think that you should let your students express their creativity as much as they can!

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